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  Treatments of Tuberculosis

 Traditional Treatments and Quackery

King Clovis, of 5th Century France, believing his divine appointment as King gave him special powers, claimed to heal tuberculosis by the touch of his hand. For more than a millennium after, scrofula--a tubercular infection of the glands--was treated by a touch of the King and placement of a gold "touch piece" around the neck of the patient. Edward I is said to have touched 533 sick in a single month. In England, in 1660, over 6000 people received the "Royal Touch".

Several other traditional treatments used for tubercular patients included drinking potions of savory ingredients like garlic and dog fat, inhaling smoke from burning cow dung, and taking long sea voyages to exercise the chest with extended vomiting. A French physician named Laennec (famous for his invention of the stethoscope) once treated his patients by placing seaweed under their beds, noting that tuberculosis was less common among those living near the ocean.

 Bed Rest

More recently, in the 1800s, patients were instructed to stay in an airtight room, wrapped in a feather blanket, near a hot stove. Just before 1900, rural sanatoriums began to emerge, offering the cure of fresh "country air".

Near the beginning of TB treatment in sanatoria, it became known that the sun helped to kill TB bacteria (see heliotherapy). When the Sun's UV rays hit human skin, vitamin D is produced. Naturally, when cod fish were found to be rich in vitamin D, it followed that their oil was sold as "liquid sunshine" (this was a real advertisement in the Valley Echo, March 1944). Cod Liver Oil is still used in "traditional" medicine today, and as an important dietary supplement, but no real evidence exists that it helps to cure tuberculosis.